arizona, you are making alabama look good

so, you’ve heard about the recent spate of utter insanity in arizona? this is, so far, my favorite article on it (well, on the banning of ethnic studies classes, anyway):

So the complaint is that ethnic studies in general, and Chicano studies in particular, teach hate. In a moment of truly dazzling irony, Horne said, “It’s just like the old South, and it’s long past time that we prohibited it.”

The logic seems to be that any time brown folks get together in groups to talk about their identity and history, they must be plotting against white people. Maybe something here sounds like the old South, but I don’t think it’s the students and teachers.

What Horne would probably say is that there’s American history and that’s what should be taught in American schools, thank you very much. But what this kind of argument relies on is the assumption that white people’s history is history, and everyone else’s is “ethnic studies,” or worse, “teaching hate.”

Now, I’d have no problem with taking the teaching of this stuff out of the “ethnic studies” ghetto where it’s kept and building it into the universal curriculum. … But teaching everyone about the conquest of the Southwest and the ensuing century-and-a-half of exploitation of Chicano workers is obviously not what this law has in mind. The idea, instead, is to teach nobody about it. And if nobody’s teaching it, then kids in Arizona are, of course, going to grow up unaware. The implicit message to Chicanos is that they have no history, that the struggles of their ancestors are not relevant or important. And the lesson for white kids is much the same — that their Latino classmates’ experience of their own historical and ethnic identity is invalid. If it did matter, wouldn’t it be in the history books?

seriously, this article is great and i have nothing to add. this is why curriculum battles are so tense and fraught: what we teach matters. the narratives we establish for “American history” dictate who is and is not “American.” the past is our collective history, our collective genealogy. it’s where we’ve come from and it informs where we’re going. and what we learn about our past determines how we carry forward into the future.

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1 comment
  1. fauxpopuli said:

    I find this whole ethnic studies battle really mindblowing. Or, at least–ok, the idea that a bunch of backwards assholes in Arizona want to stop teaching the ugly side of their own historical white power structure thingie makes sense, but these attempts to come up with a so-called reasonable explanation for it are just too much. “It’s just like the old South” in what sense? I mean if society is the white plantation owner that the Latinos are conspiring against then doesn’t that make SOCIETY THE WHITE PLANTATION OWNER THAT THE LATINOS ARE CONSPIRING AGAINST?! What next, some kind of Bizarro Universe invocation of Godwin where Arizona Republicans compare themselves to Nazis? And if we’re somehow misunderstanding the whole Old South comparison then what the fuck was this guy actually trying to say? I can’t remember which blog I’m borrowing from (Balloon Juice maybe?) but it’s like these guys have developed their own language and their own series of cultural/political references that I am just completely unable to relate to.

    Honestly I haven’t been paying as much attention to this stuff lately, it’s just getting too nuts. I still watch TDS/Colbert every day and Maher every week and whatnot but my intake of political blogs has diminished. I’ve been paying more attention to sports stuff where you have lighter topics like the Roethlisberger sexual assault case and the LT rape case and the Saints Vicodin scandal and… and…

    Goddamn, it’s really terrible all over isn’t it?

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